<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Henry Hobson. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Douglas M Griffin
Maggie is a film that will have people who love it and people who were bored by it. The filmmaking, the acting and the depth of a story so simple spellbound me for one, and the fact that it is called a ‘zombie film’ does it little justice.
My ex-colleagues from Filmfare who had the time after a long time to come for a press show were talking about World War Z, Brad Pitt’s zombie flick, which I generally found superficial with flimsy plot points.
And I didn’t know Maggie was a ‘zombie’ film. But it is. The best kind of zombie film I’ve ever seen. Nowhere are there hordes of lifeless, faceless, disposable corpses falling over one another and being mercilessly gunned down by the hero. No, Arnold ‘Terminator’ Schwarzenegger is not the ‘Last Action Hero’ saving the day and the world from a zombie invasion. He is Wade, a father whose wife is dead and his daughter Maggie has run away during a deadly outbreak of a virus that ‘turns’ people into zombies. Once they’ve ‘turned’ they have about eight weeks before they morph into monsters that hunger for human flesh. One bite and you are a zombie too. But the world has developed ‘quarantine’ for the afflicted that are basically carted off to die together. Understandably they don’t all go willingly.
Maggie is bitten and her father finds her and takes her home to his new wife (Joely Richardson) and her children. He wants her to spend time with them and be spared the inhumanity of dying like a lab rat. And Maggie has come to terms with her fate, which makes this so much more interesting to watch. Arnie isn’t out searching for a cure or hunting down the people who started the virus. He’s protecting her from being taken away, from losing her sanity and hope. He knows he has to kill the zombies who threaten his family but he can’t reconcile having to kill his own daughter, even though the alternative would probably be worse.
Maggie is so beautifully shot with a shaky camera that uses a focus/out-of-focus technique wonderfully. The almost sepia tones of the movie coupled with the deeply emotional scenes and dreamy pacing is mesmerising. I was transfixed to the screen. There were no zombies wrecking havoc. Just simple people affected by a disease and how they had to come to terms with it, how their relationships were affected or not, how they prepared themselves and the fears that they underwent. In what is probably his most subtle and nuanced performance, Arnold stuns us completely. He is old and frail but exudes a strength more powerful than the biceps we know he hides under his clothes. He shares poignant and light hearted moments with Maggie that are endearing. There is no over acting, no wanton violence, just good simple emotions of regular people dealing with extraordinary circumstances in admirable ways.
Sure, Maggie movies a bit slowly and isn’t for someone who lives for the next Avengers movie or wants an adrenaline rush like Mad Max: Fury Road. But Maggie is a beautifully constructed piece of cinema that will leave you agape at the end, not wanting to leave as the haunting end titles score rolls ever so gently after what is probably the best ending in a film I have ever seen.